Following Carolina BeYOUtiful week earlier this semester, two students have decided to expand Student Body Vice President Mills Hayes’s initiative with a movement called #IamIncredible.
Carolina BeYOUtiful week was a Student Government-sponsored campaign. Many students who participated directly in the week's events believed the initiative was especially impactful on women. Haylee Jackson, a second-year public health student and Alpha Delta Pi member, said she believes Carolina BeYOUtiful week united female students.
“As a woman, I believe this week should be more recognized because of all of the things women have had to overcome in the past to achieve what we have today,” Jackson said in an email. “The most beneficial thing of the week was the bare face photoshoot. I believe that this photoshoot shows women that it is ok to be you.”
Nancy Sterrett, a second-year public health student, was a photographer for Carolina BeYOUtiful week’s open-call photoshoot. While she enjoyed photographing the men and women who came to the open call, she wondered why more women weren't in attendance.
“I was photographing a lot of girls and I was kind of just thinking to myself, ‘Why weren’t there more girls who had maybe a disability? Or girls who were not necessarily the normal range of sizes, so maybe they were plus-sized or maybe they were a lot smaller?’” Sterrett said. “It wasn’t anything with that campaign, but it was kind of the idea of why wouldn’t a girl go to an open call? What was stopping her from being, ‘Yeah, I want to go be photographed’?”
Together with her friend and co-resident mentor Hunter Ertz, a third-year international business and operation and supply chain student, Sterrett began to explore why women in particular don’t have confidence in front of the camera. Following a conversation with her supervisor, Sterrett adopted the word “Incredible,” which would become the letterhead of their budding campaign.
“I don’t ever think about myself as being incredible. You think about maybe an action, maybe you won an award and you're like, ‘Wow that’s amazing, that’s incredible’, but you don’t think about how amazing and incredible you are every single day,” said Sterrett. "It is a very powerful word and as women I don’t feel like we use it enough for ourselves.”
The pair is using Sterrett’s Instagram to advertise for personal photoshoots that showcase what makes each female model feel “incredible." Women can sign up for a photoshoot through a Google Form that allows applicants to tell their stories and what they are proud of about themselves. Ertz organizes the applicants, and she and Sterrett bounce creative ideas off each other to conduct the shoot. The photoshoot is geared toward the preferences of the model, and the photos are returned with the hope that they will give confidence to women involved.
“It's kind of interesting to see how people feel powerful and feel beautiful. It can be completely different, and we think that that’s something that is unique to kind of what we're doing compared to just general body positivity campaigns,” Sterrett said. “Because if you think about it, not all women may feel comfortable in a white T-shirt or a black T-shirt or skinny jeans. We want this to be something where they are completely comfortable, completely themselves.”
Sterrett and Ertz said they greatly admire the Carolina BeYOUtiful campaign and say they think Student Government did the best they could with the time they had, but hope to expand the movement Carolina BeYOUtiful began.
“I think student government is obviously very busy; they do a lot for our school, so it's a lot easier for them to do a week kind of campaign, whereas it's a lot easier for us as individuals to go on an individual level with different people,” Ertz said in an email. “So I think for the resources that they had, and the time that they had, they did a great job.”
Mills Hayes is also scheduled to take part in #IamIncredible, with the date of the shoot to be determined.
“We just wanted to take the momentum from the recent body awareness,” Ertz said, “and use that to kind of go a little deeper.”
Ertz and Sterrett currently operate solely off of Sterrett’s Instagram, but they want to one day have a working website to post women’s stories and shoots.Their goal is to spread #IamIncredible across the Internet to promote body positivity and pride, particularly for women.
“We should not be afraid of our self-worth and loving ourselves, and still wanting to move forward and still being on that journey of change,” Sterrett said. “But it is OK to step back and be like, ‘Wow, look at me.' Because sometimes that’s really what we need.”
Sterrett and Ertz are accepting applications for models on Sterrett’s Instagram page, @nancy_sterrett, throughout the semester.